Straight Americans okay with gay rights, just not gay kissing


straight_people_turned_off_by_gay_kissing_pdaA new study has shown that straight people have largely positive views on legal rights for same-sex couples, but are turned off by their public displays of affection (PDA) – especially by gay men.

The study, which appears in the December issue of the American Sociological Review, surveyed more than 1,000 Americans.

As part of their research, Long Doan, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University, and his co-authors Annalise Loehr and Lisa R. Miller, provided study participants with one of three scenarios featuring an unmarried couple living together.

The only difference between the scenarios was the sexual identity of the couple: gay, lesbian, or heterosexual.

After reading their scenario, participants were asked to answer questions about their perceptions of the couple.

These questions included whether the couple should be granted legal benefits such as family leave, hospital visitation, inheritance rights, and health insurance.

Other questions focused on the acceptability of the couple engaging in various forms of PDA, including telling others they are in a relationship as well as holding hands, kissing on the cheek, and French kissing in a park.

Among straight participants, the researchers found, for example, that 70 percent supported inheritance rights for the straight couple, while 69 percent supported inheritance rights for the gay couple.

However, when it came to the issue of PDA, things changed remarkable. Ninety five percent of heterosexual participants approved of the heterosexual couple kissing on the cheek, but only 55 percent approved of the gay couple kissing on the cheek. Interestingly, 72 percent of the straight participants approved of the lesbian couple kissing on the cheek.

“Support for legal benefits for gays and lesbians should not be conflated with favourable attitudes toward same-sex couples in general,” Doan said. “We come to the conclusion that although heterosexuals may be increasingly willing to grant legal benefits to gay and lesbian couples, entrenched prejudice that takes on subtler forms may remain.”

Surprisingly, the researchers also found that, in some cases, gays and lesbians are less supportive of same-sex couples engaging in PDA than they are of heterosexual couples partaking in the same behaviour.

“This was the most surprising finding in our study. Initially, it was counter-intuitive because we expected gay and lesbian individuals to espouse egalitarian ideas about same-sex couples’ right to express affection in public,” said Doan.

“However, we believe that gay and lesbian people were less likely to approve of certain same-sex public displays of affection due to safety concerns. Indeed, gay and lesbian individuals are all too aware that same-sex individuals are vulnerable to harassment and hate crimes.”

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